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Five Reasons to Watch 'Men of a Certain Age' From Star Ray Romano

by Maureen Ryan, posted May 31st 2011 1:45PM
1. The first reason to watch 'Men of a Certain Age'? Well, if you don't want me hounding you -- yes, you personally -- to check out the show's terrific mix of bittersweet humor and low-key but effective drama, then you had better get with the program when 'Men' returns 10PM ET Wednesday on TNT.

2. The second reason to watch the show, which recently won a Peabody Award: Star Ray Romano says it's not hard to jump right in with the new set of six episodes TNT is airing this summer, even if you've never seen 'Men' before.

"It's not too convoluted," the former 'Everybody Loves Raymond' star said in a recent interview. "It's easily catch-up-able."

Not only is TNT showing several episodes late Tuesday night, in case you want to check out a few installments of 'Men' before the new episodes arrive, this isn't a show with a complicated mythology. All you really need to know is that it chronicles the lives of three friends -- car dealership manager Owen (Andre Braugher), actor-turned-car-salesman Terry (Scott Bakula) and recently divorced party-store owner Joe (Romano) -- who navigate the middle stages of their lives with a good deal of self-deprecating humor and stalwart (if sometimes acerbic) support from each other.

Though the show is full of subtle and satisfying stories and digressions, that's pretty much it. Don't think that you'll be left behind as season 2 resumes. As Romano said, "There isn't a lot left unanswered from" the show's winter run of episodes. Terry, the aging playboy of the trio, still in a tentative relationship with a former actress, Erin (Melinda McGraw), Owen is still dealing with the financial mess his father left when he retired from the car dealership, and Joe's still trying to navigate the dating scene, deal with his gambling issues and help out a sick friend. On the dating front, a woman from Joe's past, Dory (Sarah Clarke), will be back to complicate his continuously awkward dating life.

"There was definitely a connection made there, and it ended abruptly, and it was Joe's fault that it ended that way," Romano said. "She's still out there, and we will see that he hasn't forgotten about her."

3. The third reason to watch this show? It's has more heart than you might think. Romano said that while the TNT promos for 'Men' "like to show the light moments," the show's "battle" has been to get viewers to see that there's more to it than that.

"I want the people to know that there's comedy in it.... But I think there's a tendency to think it's just three guys talking about boobs and Viagra, you know? And it's not," Romano said. "There's depth to it, there's heart, there's trauma and there's comedy in it."

That's certainly true: Very few shows are better at depicting life's small victories and the unspoken fears of adults who've begun to spend a fair amount of time contemplating their mortality, the worth of their accomplishments and the expansion of their waistlines. Still, even though the final scene of Wednesday's episode made me choke up a little, much of the show's tone is of weary yet winning bemusement.

It took some time to perfect that tone, Romano admits. TNT's early feedback on the show, he reports was that it was "too glum." "I guess that's the opposite of the show 'Glee,'" Romano said. "I give [the network] credit, because we did find a good balance. There's a sense of hope for each guy. There are going to be moments where one of the guys might be in a bad place, but it's not melodramatic and it's not hopeless."

4. The fourth reason to watch the show: Despite the name, the show isn't just for guys. Most adults will find the predicaments of Joe, Owen and Terry eminently relatable, and 'Men's' supporting cast is full of female characters who are every bit as nuanced as the men (LisaGay Hamilton, who plays Owen's wife, and McGraw have been particularly excellent this season). The ladies might not get "diner time" -- every episode features a scene or two of the guys trading stories and jokes at their favorite restaurant -- but the show takes the women's lives and desires seriously.

5. A fifth reason to watch this show -- and it's a big one: There's some terrific acting on display. Bakula's character could have been just another shaggy-haired Casanova, but he gives Terry's mid-life reinvention and his tentative steps toward full adulthood real resonance, and his budding relationship with Erin, who's as skittish as he is (though for different reasons) has been one of the show's most interesting developments. We expect Braugher to be an amazing dramatic actor, but one of 'Men's' most enjoyable revelations has been that the former 'Homicide' actor is a very skilled, subtle comedian. Owen's scenes with his father (Richard Gant) are full of perfectly pitched exasperation and well-concealed love.

For his part, Romano said that he didn't want to do another multi-camera comedy, and 'Men's' very different single-camera style was one of the most appealing things about it.

On a sitcom, "there is no real subtlety -- maybe occasionally, but you're doing, like, a play in front of a live audience. You've got to heighten things up and be a little broader than you really would be. I love that [on 'Men'], we can show things with just a look, a close-up, a moment," Romano noted. "People say, 'Would guys really sit around and talk like that?' We're not having an Oprah session. We might say one [personal] thing, but then the next thing is, we're pissed off that our salad doesn't have dressing on it. We do things in as minimal a way as possible."

One more bonus reason to watch 'Men': It's probably coming back for a third season next year, and when it does, episodes won't be split between a summer run and winter half-season.

Romano said TNT realized last year that the show would probably work better as a summer offering but the network didn't want to have the show off for a year and a half, hence the decision to divide season 2 into two segments.

"It's not great," Romano said of the long break between the winter episodes and the current half-season. "You feel like you get a little momentum going, and then it's off again, and you don't know if those viewers are going to come back. But ultimately, [going forward] it's going to be better that it's going to be on in June. At least that's what they tell me."

By the way, that third season isn't official yet, but Romano said the show's recent Peabody win has probably helped in that department.

"They're very excited about [the award] at TNT," Romano said. "We assume this all means there's no way they can't renew us, but you know, it's showbiz."

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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I like it. Husband thinks it's stupid.

June 01 2011 at 11:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

" Sexiest Girls of Sitcoms " ? Well, there's something worthwhile commenting on !.....


Give us " Men of a Certain Age" a break here girls; for we are either married or otherwise committed to someone else, or God - so for you you Naked Ladies to prance around so shamelessly is "Cruel & Unusual Punishment" for us men; and the last time I checked - this is Against The Law !!!


June 01 2011 at 7:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Men of a Certain Age" is an extremely different and entertaining show. As I'm watching it, I almost forget it is a show.
The actors are great, and the story lines. Looking forward to tonight. Watched all of the available ones again last night. Seems so true to life, as I would imagine three close male friends that grew up together in similar situations
would be.

June 01 2011 at 1:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Tried to watch this last night. Fell asleep.

June 01 2011 at 8:31 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Haiyan Zeng

For his part, Romano said that he didn't want to do another multi-camera comedy, and 'Men's' very different single-camera style was one of the most appealing things about it.

May 31 2011 at 10:58 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Looking forward to the return. Sometimes makes us laugh out loud. Cast is great. Show has only gotten better. Didn't realize it is just to finish up the season with six episodes. But, kind of getting used to the way schedules get chopped up and shown these days.

Cable shows don't have a lot of episodes per season. Just the way it seems to be.

May 31 2011 at 2:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
eddie willers

In its own way, it is one of the best shows on television.

May 31 2011 at 2:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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